Can you be evicted due to a unpaid late fee?

My landlord accepted my $1000 rent 4 days late. Then today she placed a note on my door stating that I have 3 days to pay $95 or vacate. Nowhere in the lease does it state that late fees shall be considered rent. Also, we have been in dispute over the terrible condition of the unit. And the half fixes they have done. Can she legally steal half a month’s rent from me for not paying a $95 late fee?

Asked on November 10, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Florida

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

First--if you admit that your rent was late, IF the lease contained a late fee and it was properly calculated, you have to pay it. Why not simply pay it and avoid fighting with your landlord?

Second, if there was no late fee in the lease, then you don't need to pay it, and the landlord can't take any action against you. Or if there is a late fee but it's a smaller amount, you need to pay the correct amount.

Third, if the late fee were called "rent" or "additional rent" in the lease, you could be evicted for nonpayment of rent without notice. If the late fee is not "rent," you can still be evicted for not paying it, but the process is different: by not paying, you are violating a lease term (any lease violations, if not corrected, could lead to eviction), and must be given a "notice to cease" the violation (usually 30 days in most jurisictions) and an opportunity to pay. Once you pay, you are no longer in violation--and note that even if the late fee was considered "rent" or "additional" rent, you could avoid eviction by paying it before a judgment of possession is obtained againist you.

4) If the landlord has not maintained the unit it habitable condition or its not fit for its intended purpose (residence), you may have grounds to sue the landlord for compensation or to force him or her to make repairs--but you still need to pay what you owe.


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